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Ketanji Brown Jackson hearing decorum far cry from explosive Kavanaugh confirmation: ‘Behaving themselves’

It’s not a cakewalk, but Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings are a far cry from the Kavanaugh treatment. 

Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans – still seething over how Democrats treated Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his 2018 hearings – kicked off Jackson’s confirmation assuring her that she wouldn’t be subject to “that disgraceful behavior,” as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said. 

Since then, Jackson has faced tough and substantive questions on the law and judicial philosophy. But there have been no outbursts, interruptions or character attacks. 

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“I think everybody’s pretty much behaving themselves.” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said of the decorum at the high stakes Senate Judiciary Committee hearings for President Biden’s nominee.

The first two days of Jackson’s hearings featured tough questions from Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., on whether she was too lenient on sex offenders – which Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., dismissed an “attack.” Cruz pressed her on whether she backs critical race theory – Jackson said she has “never used it” and it’s not part of her work as a judge. And Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., accused Jackson of twisting the law and cutting a criminal sentence “because you were sympathetic to a fentanyl drug kingpin.” Jackson said she “respectfully” disagrees. 

But amid ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, there were no protests inside the hearing room, repeated disruptions, celebrity guests or mass arrests by Capitol Police that marked the hearings for Kavanaugh. 

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“Isn’t it a lot different thank Kavanaugh?” Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said of the tenor of the hearings. He presided over Kavanaugh’s 2018 confirmation. 

U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) meets U.S. Supreme Court nominee and federal appeals court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, in his office at the United States Capitol building in Washington, U.S., March 9, 2022. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein 

Kavanaugh faced sexual assault allegations during his confirmation, which he forcefully denied. Democrats, meanwhile, touted his main accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, and attorney Michael Avenatti, who claimed to represent yet more women Kavanaugh allegedly assaulted. Dozens were arrested protesting Kavanaugh’s confirmation, and celebrities like Alyssa Milano attended his hearing. 

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Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said there’s a big difference why the Jackson hearings are proceeding without the all the drama. 

“They’re not raising any issues relating to her qualifications or competence,” Hirono said of her GOP colleagues. “It’s a very big difference. It’s not often that you have somebody being accused of sexual assault being considered for the Supreme Court.” 

Asked by Fox News Digital if GOP complaints about the Kavanaugh hearing were justified, Hirono said, “no.” 

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson speaks with Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, outside Hirono's office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 8, 2022. Judge Jackson's confirmation hearing starts March 21. If confirmed, she would be the court's first Black female justice.

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Republicans this week also made clear they’re still sore over how Democrats and the media treated Justice Amy Coney Barrett in 2020. Barrett was nominated just weeks before the presidential election, causing Democrats to decry her process as a sham. 

The Washington Post, meanwhile, published an investigation of Barrett headlined: “Amy Coney Barrett served as a ‘handmaid’ in Christian group People of Praise.” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Tuesday vented to Jackson that the media and Democrats made Barrett out to be “some kind of weirdo” because of her Catholic faith. “We’re tired of it, and it’s not going to happen to you,” Graham told Jackson.

But Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Tuesday lamented that Jackson did get “harsh” questions.

“The prior questions were rather harsh,” Feinstein told Fox News Digital when exiting the hearing room. She didn’t name names, but this was following questions from Graham, R-S.C., about Jackson’s personal life to make a point that certain questions that conservatives, including Barrett, previously faced should be out of bounds. 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., greets Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in her hideaway office at the Capitol, Wednesday, March 16, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

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“This is a hard place in there when people sit for a long time and take a lot of questions and even some abuse,” Feinstein said. 

Sen. Cory Booker, who had a self-proclaimed “Spartacus” moment during the Kavanaugh confirmation, said Tuesday he thinks Jackson’s hearing is civil. 

“Everything has been well within the bounds” Booker told Fox News Digital about committee’s decorum and questioning so far, “and I think it’s going to continue to be a very good hearing. “

Booker also took no issue with how Barrett’s hearings went: “I sat through Amy Coney Barrett and I thought that was really a great, great hearing. She’s an extraordinary candidate. I didn’t support her, but I was very happy with the way that went.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

The toughest questioning Jackson faced came from past and potential GOP presidential hopefuls. Hawley explored one specific child pornography case in which Jackson made statements from the bench sympathetic to the defendant. 

“I’m just trying to figure out, Judge, is he the victim here or are the victims the victims?” Hawley said. 

Cruz dug in on Jackson’s thoughts on critical race theory and the curriculum that was taught at the private school in Washington, D.C., the Georgetown Day School, where Jackson sits on the board of trustees. He was armed with poster size pages of children’s books and asked Jackson whether she thought babies were racist. Jackson said that no child should be made to feel as though they are racist. 

Cotton, meanwhile, pushed Jackson on whether the U.S. needs more police officers. She declined to answer. 

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said the tenor and intensity of the senators’ questions can be measured by their political calculations.

“I think there’s a variation depending on the extent of the presidential ambition of the questioner,” Whitehouse told Fox News Digital.

The third day of Jackson’s hearings begins Wednesday at 9 a.m. ET.

Fox News’ Aubrie Spady and Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report. 

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